Hip fractures among people over 65 can be difficult to recover from. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year 600,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with hip fractures. Of those cases, 95% are caused by falls, usually sideways. After a hip fracture, 25% of elderly patients die within 12 months, 25% are never able to live independently again, and 75% never regain full mobility. Women account for 75% of hip fractures because they fall more often than men and because women often have osteoporosis which thins bones and makes them more liable to break.
ActiveProtective has developed a smart garment in the form of a belt that uses 3D motion sensors to detect a human fall in progress. The belt actually doesn’t look for a fall; it looks for the absence of stereotypical human motions. When the belt’s sensors accelerations that are too long and too large, the smart belt deploys a 2-inch air cushion in 60 milliseconds to protect the hip. Unlike vehicle airbags that use pyrotechnics to deploy airbags, the device uses cold gas inflation. Besides not alarming the wearer, it sounds like it would be much easier sell elderly people on the idea of gas inflation than telling them they’ll be wearing a belt with firecrackers on their hips. The belt also can trigger an alert to an emergency medical contact or personal emergency response system (PERS) via Bluetooth and an associated smartphone.
The product is still under development and not yet available for sale. In November 2016, ActiveProtective received $2.6 million in funding to support pilot studies in collaboration with two large senior care providers and to prepare for commercial distribution. The funds will also be used to study additional applications of ActiveProtectives’ technology to protect people in sports, equestrians, high-risk occupations, and military.